Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls- Tailgate Snacks

I’m still learning a lot about my new home city, first thing I learned: Seattle loves the Seahawks. When professors walk into class wearing blue and green jerseys- you know this is serious. I was invited to my first tailgate party (well semi-tailgate, we watched the game from the comfort of the warm indoors). My first thought was “what should I bring?!”

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When it comes to football, I’m pretty clueless, but at least knew that tailgating entailed a specific type of food. This isn’t a fancy-chocolate-ganache-fruit-tart kinda thing, this is a nachos-chips-and-dip-burgers kinda thing.

I admit, I enlisted the help of Google: “tailgate appetizers”

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I found Picky Palate’s Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls and I was excited to try it out.

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  • 13.3 oz roll of refrigerated french bread loaf (Pillsbury is a good choice)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon of Trader Joe’s minced garlic)
  • 3 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Start off by preheating the oven to 350°F and spraying your mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Pop open the french bread dough package.

Anyone else get really freaked out when it *pops*?

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Slice the whole roll into about 1 inch thick pieces. The recipe said it only makes 10 but I managed to make about 1 1/2 dozen minis. Re-roll, flatten, and press the dough into each muffin cup.

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In a medium bowl: add the cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan cheese, chili powder, garlic salt, salt and pepper. 2014-12-14 10.49.48

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and heat to medium. Cook the spinach for about 2 minutes and add the garlic then cook for another 1 minute. The spinach cooks very quickly so be careful not to overcook.

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Add the cooked spinach to the mixture- stir and mix until well combined. If the cream cheese was not quite softened it’s okay the hot cooked spinach helps melts it. Spoon the dip mixture into the dough cups.

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Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese on each and bake for 16-18 minutes until the tops and edges just start turing brown.2014-12-14 10.58.35

I had a problem stopping myself from “taste testing” more than 1 because they were so yummy!! The creamy cheese and spinach was a perfect balance for the warm fluffy french bread.

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I made these for the first time so I stuck with the basic recipe but imagine the possibilities of adding sausage, artichoke, jalapeños, or bacon! 2014-12-14 11.34.21

These were a hit and redeemed me as a San Franciscan among hard-core Seahawks fans.

Greetings from Seattle! and Pumpkin Cream Puffs

I’m blogging to you from my new home in rainy Seattle, I’ve got a bigger brand new kitchen yet no time to bake in it! Update: In September, my boyfriend, cat and I packed up my little Honda and drove 800+ miles from San Francisco so I could fulfill my dream of attending University of Washington for graduate school. Sadly I had to leave behind a lot of my cake decorating and baking tools at my parents’ place – trading my tools for textbooks. I’ve survived my first quarter so now hopefully I can do a little bit of catching up during my Winter Break.

Let me kick off this new chapter with Pumpkin Cream Puffs a.k.a. Profiterole a.k.a. Choux a la creme (if you want to get more fancy pants with it). I made these a few weeks ago and brought them to my first Friendsgiving!

Note: while a pretty simple recipe, the whole thing from start to finish will take you a good 5-6 hours so plan accordingly! I ended up rushing late to my dinner.

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These little guys are incredibly easy to make and I didn’t believe it until I made them. I applaud the French for keeping it simple.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter (cold is okay)
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs

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Preheat the over to 400F. In saucepan combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat and immediately add the flour and stir stir stir!

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The mixture will quickly turn into a doughy ball that pulls away from the pan’s side. 2014-11-26 22.37.27

Remove the pan from heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes. I transferred the dough to my stand mixer next, but if you don’t have one-consider the next step a good arm work out! Add the 3 eggs, one at a time, and beat well. The mixture will become considerably more “goop-y”.
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The next step is optional. I am a little OCD so I wanted my cream puffs to be smaller and uniform in shape, so I poured all the dough into a makeshift piping bag. You can also just drop tablespoons of dough on to your baking sheet.

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Here’s a great little trick I learned awhile ago. If you are not good at estimating how much to pipe like me, then take a small glass or cup and dip the rim of it into some flour and “stamp” rings onto your baking sheet.

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Okay okay, I know they do not look particularly appealing right now….

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To get rid of those little peaks and to give the puffs a rounded top, dip your finger in water and tap on the peaks.

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30-35 minutes later, when they are light golden brown and firm- you’ve got cream puffs!

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Transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Now it’s time for Part 2: the filling!

You will need:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin (Although personally I would have used about 1/2 cup- yes, there is a thing as too much pumpkin!) 

In a chilled metal mixing bowl beat the whipping cream, sugar and pumpkin spice with an electronic mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.

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Fold in canned pumpkin gently. Cover and chill for up to 4 hours.

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While you are waiting, you can start slicing up your puffs horizontally with a serrated knife. The puffs are airy and pretty much hollow, but the shell should also be strong enough to not crumble or break in your hands while cutting them.

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While the cream filling is ready to go, fill up a piping bag with a wide tip OR a large ziplock bag with about 1/2 inch corner cut off.

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This was my favorite part: pipe the cream in as much as you want- some people like to be able to seal the cream in, some people like lots of filling and to have the top shell sit on top of the cream.

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The original recipe actually has maple-caramel sauce too, but since I needed to transport these I thought it’d be way too messy and I also think the cream puffs are light and sweet- prefect for a post-fest dessert.

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Just for fun, I plated one with warmed Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Caramel Sauce(!) and toasted pecans.

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Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for friends, food, living in an awesome city like Seattle and my Sweet Therapy readers!

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Brown Butter Blueberry Cobbler

This recipe is absolutely magical! Four-that’s right four- ingredients that suddenly become the most mouthwatering, sweetest cobbler I’ve ever tasted ! I was searching around online for a recipe where I could use my fresh blueberries (yay for summer season fruits!) and my extra box of yellow cake mix, after much searching I found kevin’s and amanda’s Brown Butter Blueberry Cobbler!

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This is another result of me trying to clear out my baking cabinet as I pack and prepare for a big move. (Plus I just wanted an excuse to buy vanilla ice cream.)

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×11 pan (I definitely prefer a small pan for a thicker cobbler).

Like the original recipe says you’ll need:

  • 3 cups of fruit (blueberry, strawberry, peach, blackberry, etc.) imagine the possibilities! Fresh or frozen works!
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar – I definitely feel like this is optional, or less sugar would be good since the cake mix and ice cream will be very sweet already.

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The key to this particular cobbler is the first step: browning the butter (definitely check out the easy guide from kevin and amanda’s blog for an easy guide). This process gives the butter a rich, caramel-y flavor. Place the stick of butter in shallow, heavy bottom pan on medium-high heat. Stir, stir, stir until the liquid starts turning darker and you may start seeing brown bits start to form at the bottom.

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Pour the whole bag of yellow cake mix into a heatproof  mixing bowl (don’t want your plastic mixing bowl to melt). Then slowly add the brown butter to the mix, whisk until you have a dry, crumbly mixture. This is your cobbler topping.

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Take your fruit and stir in the sugar if you want it extra sweet. Otherwise spread the fruit evenly at the bottom of the baking pan, spread the butter/cake crumble mixture on top. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes!!

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The cobbler is ready when the top is a toasty light brown and the fruit is bubbling. I know it’s tempting to just eat some right away after being teased by the smell for 40 minutes, but let it cool for about 5-10 minutes.

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Serve with ice cream!

The cake crumble mixture is sweet and crunchy- the perfect texture combination with the creaminess of the ice cream and warm sweetness of the fruit! Sit out on your porch and enjoy some seconds!

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Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Soon I will have to change my blog introduction to “Welcome to my (tiny) slightly larger kitchen! I am a social worker graduate student who works, lives, and plays studies in the amazing city of San Francisco Seattle!…”

Yes it’s true I’ve been busy preparing for a big out-of-state move and one of my biggest challenges will be to use up all the food and ingredients I have in the kitchen! I decided to make Jam Thumbprint cookies to bring to work.

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But I will confess- I had ulterior motives:  I needed to get rid of the jars of fruit jams/preserves in my fridge! 

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I don’t usually care for “regular” jams like Smuckers strawberry, but I have collected some pretty unique flavors: Lingonberry (with IKEA’s meatballs-SO good.)preserves, Trader Joe’s Fig Butter, Hawaiian Sun Pineapple Jam (gift from HI), and locally-made Blue Chair Strawberry-Blood Orange Jam with Rosemary (so good with fancy cheese).

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The cookie base is your standard butter cookie recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup jam of your choice

I excluded the sugar for rolling, because I definitely did not want any more sugar added to it and other versions of this recipe did not call for it.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt together.

With a hand mixer or stand mixer (I’d recommend the stand mixer if you have one unless you have really buff arms and powerful handmixer) whip the softened butter and sugar until it’s fluffy, for about 5 mins. Beat in the egg and vanilla until it’s just combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Slowly beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated.

I found the dough WAY too sticky and soft to roll, so I placed it in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie scooper and place them about 2-inches apart on the baking sheets.

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Here’s the fun part:

Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1/2-inch deep. I used the back of a clean measuring spoon for cleaner and more uniform indentations.

Fill each indentation with about 3/4 teaspoon jam. Be sure not to over fill with jam, it will melt while baking and spill over the cookies and it won’t look neat and pretty.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. (For even color, rotate the pans from top to bottom about halfway through baking.) Cool cookies on the baking sheets.

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I made pineapple jam thumbprints, fig butter thumbprints, and strawberry-blood orange jam thumbprints! The butter cookie was rich, soft and not too sweet to balance out the flavors of the jam. Great with a cup of tea!

Baked Avocado Egg

Been seeing this really simply recipe on a lot of health fitness blogs and decided to try it. This combines two of my favorite foods: eggs and avocados! Google “baked avocado egg” and you get tons of different versions, but I decided to use PopSugar’s Paleo Powered Breakfast: Eggs Baked in Avocado- just to make sure I get the temp right and all that.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 spoon
  • 2 small ramekins/oven-proof bowls

1. Cut the avocado in half, scoop out the pit.

2. Scoop out some avocado flesh to make room for the egg- about 2 tablespoons

3. Place the avocado halves in ramekins with flesh side up, the small ramekins helps hold the raw egg in place without spilling.

4. Crack an egg into each of the avocado halves. Add a pinch of sea salt or pepper.

5. Bake in the oven at 425°F for 151-20 minutes until the egg looks solid.

6. Season with herbs, salsa, tabasco sauce, or whatever you’d like and ENJOY!

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Nutella Swirl Banana Bread

Ahh….Nutella. Pretty much a gift from the gods. The most wondrous thing about this stuff is that you can put it in almost anything: cake, cookies, fruits, toast. And it’s an excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast. I wanted to make something more than the usual home-comfort banana bread, so I used Cup of Jo’s Nutella Swirled Banana Bread recipe.

Not only did it taste divine, but pretty too.

2014-06-08 23.38.52I’ll have to work on my knife swirling next time.

2014-06-08 22.08.57I actually cut the recipe in half to make 1 loaf, but here is the original recipe:

  • 3 large or 4 medium (2 cups mashed) bananas, very ripe - for a 1 loaf I used just 2 bananas 
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk I used unsweetened organic soy milk 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. rum, optional
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

Prep work: preheat oven to 350ºF. Line the loaf pans with parchment paper and butter well- makes clean up a lot easier.

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Start by mashing up the bananas with a fork or whisk, mash it until you just have some small chunks left.

In a stand mixer: combine the 1 cup packed brown sugar + 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla and 1 tablespoon rum.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mixture, just until smooth. Add the bananas and mix just until they are combined.

2014-06-08 22.31.31Here comes the fun part! Microwave 1/2 cup of Nutella in a small heatproof bowl for about 20 seconds to get it a little more like chocolate sauce. Drizzle about 2/3 cup of it into the banana bread batter.

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Do not mix it into the batter but gently fold the Nutella into the batter, using a spatula scoop under the batter and bring it back up, folding over the top- do it about 3-4 times. At this point if you are making 2 loaves, divide the batter evenly into the pans.

Take the remaining Nutella (honestly, add more of you want!!) and drizzle it in two straight vertical lines down the top of the batter, then run a knife through the lines horizontally to achieve the swirl effects. 2014-06-08 22.49.51

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Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. After taking it out from the oven, let it cool for about 10 minutes. Gently lift out with the sides of the parchment paper and cut into thick slices. 2014-06-08 23.57.34The bread is actually not too sweet/sugary, it allows the naturally sweetness of the ripened bananas come out and the rich nutty flavors of the Nutella take center stage. Great with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Grab a slice for breakfast, afternoon tea or post-dinner dessert.

2 (okay more like 4) Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

I’ve been wanting to try these “mug recipes” that pop up on my Facebook newsfeed- amazing meals and treats that you cook and eat in your friggin’ mug!! Good news for those college students in dorms! No excuses- all you have to do is mix and let your chef microwave do the work!

Plus- keeps the clean up to a minimum.

I borrowed this super-easy recipe from I Am a Food Blog: 2 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe. Doubling the recipe because I have a feeling I won’t be sharing!

2014-06-16 21.18.37First find a slightly larger microwavable mug (you want a bigger mug because the batter does rise and could spill over a little.)

Stir together 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of milk, 3 tablespoons of oil (coconut, vegetable, canola, etc.)

2014-06-16 21.28.39Mix in 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 cup sugar (I know it’s a LOT of sugar proportionally- so I’d say you can use less), 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir until well mixed. Lastly, add a splash of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips. Give it a few good stirs.

2014-06-16 21.28.49Depending on your microwave’s power-you’ll “bake” it in there for 2-4 minutes. I had to do 4 minutes because I have a dinky cheap microwave (that I need to clean…..I know I know.) At 2 minutes it still looked really softed, so I left it in longer. It was pretty firm, so maybe next time 3- 3 1/2 minutes would have been good too. Place a plate underneath to ensure no messy spillage in the microwave.

2014-06-16 21.36.31There it is, my first mug cake! It’s hot, definitely use mitts and let it cool for 5 minutes.

2014-06-16 21.52.48Enjoy it any way you like, this is a very basic chocolate cake you can eat straight from the mug with a spoon. Or you can jazz it up in all sorts of ways. Consider adding:

  • sprinkles (can’t go wrong with sprinkles)
  • whip cream
  • a scoop of ice cream
  • caramel sauce
  • banana slices/ fruit
  • nutella
  • walnuts
  • bacon bits
  • sea salt
  • All of the above.

2014-06-16 21.51.49It falls out pretty easily from the mug if you want to put it on a plate. It’s almost like an upside-down cake with the melted chocolate chips that fell to the bottom giving the top an extra creamy sweetness. The cake is very dense and fudgy. I’m so intrigued by the idea baking with oven-alternatives!

2014-06-16 21.53.11-1All good things come to those who wait, but no need to wait long for chocolate cake!